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Egyptian churches cancel events after warning of attacks

Egyptian security authorities warn of potential for another attack by Islamic State group on country's Christians
Egyptian Coptic Christian church (AFP)

Egypt’s Coptic Christian, Catholic and evangelical churches will temporarily suspend activities after security services warned of potential attacks, church sources said on Thursday.

Reverend Andrea Zaki, head of the Egyptian Evangelical Church, told AFP that the suspended activities include "conferences and religious events".

"We are talking about conferences and travel for religious events, for three weeks, because we have information in cooperation with the responsible agencies that attempts to attack have been detected," he said.

Church services will not be affected, he added.

Coptic Church spokesman Bolus Halim confirmed the moratorium on some activities.

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Sources said a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Pope told individual church leaders about the cancellations. Copts on trips or youth camps were told to cut short their activities and return home early.

The Egyptian Catholic church said it got the same instructions. The church "complied with the interior minister's decision to cancel church trips and camps until further notice," Father Rafik Greish, a spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, told Reuters late on Thursday.

A Coptic church official, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters that his church received "oral instructions this week, nothing written, to prevent panic," he said.

The source said the church was provided with additional security forces this week.

The warning follows a series of attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group on Copts. In May, the militant group claimed responsibility for killing 29 pilgrims travelling to a monastery in central Egypt. A month earlier, 44 people were killed in bomb attacks at a cathedral and another church on Palm Sunday.

Egypt faces an insurgency led by IS in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013.

At least 23 soldiers were killed last week when suicide car bombs tore through two military checkpoints in the region in an attack claimed by IS. It was one of the bloodiest assaults on security forces in years.

The militant group has also intensified attacks in the mainland in recent months, often targeting Coptic Christians. About 100 Copts have been killed since December.

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